Anglers on Wednesday said they’re grateful that Horseshoe Lake was reopened not just because of the recreational opportunities — but because some count on it to put food on their family’s table.
Retired couple Ray and Charlene Evans, of Fairview Heights, were at the lake all morning and into the afternoon Wednesday, filling a five-gallon bucket with striper, crappie and a large catfish.
“We’re so glad to see the lake open,” Charlene Evans said. “When we heard the news I said ‘thank you, Jesus, for hearing our prayers.’”
She said a lot of people count on the fish in the lake to feed their families. Their catch Wednesday is on the menu for a meal with their grandchilden.
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The planned closure of Horseshoe Lake was put off when a donor wrote a personal check to pay the past-due utility bill at the lake and two others that fell behind during the state’s budget impasse. The power company won’t say who paid the bills, but Robert Romanik, a candidate for state representative, says he paid the bill. A screenshot of a payment receipt circulating on social media shows Romanik paid $3,224.80, and the receipt was confirmed to be issued by Southwestern Electric Cooperative.
“Of course, Southwestern Electric Cooperative didn’t post the information,” said Joe Richardson, company spokesman, “but the payment confirmation you shared with me was issued by our office.”
Romanik, a local radio host and candidate for state office, told the Belleville News-Democrat Tuesday night that he paid the overdue bills in honor of his son, the late Stephen Romanik II. He said he wanted families to be able “to enjoy the lake and scenery” this summer.
With Horseshoe Lake and Ramsey Lake State Recreation Area both open again, Chris Young, an IDNR spokesman, said Reserve America, a company that takes camping reservations, is set to contact all the individuals that had reservations up to May 15 and give them the option to keep their original reservations.
Several park visitors came back Wednesday to Horseshoe Lake.
Ray Evans said he has been fishing at Horseshoe Lake since he was 8 years old.
“I’m 65 now,” he said. “So that’s been a pretty long time.”
There is a camaraderie among anglers at the Madison County lake which had been closed since April 25.
“A lot of people come here several times a week,” Ray Evans said. “They see each other here just about every morning. I don’t know what we would have done if the lake was closed for a long time.”
Ron Watson may be the most relieved person to see the lake stay open. He runs Ron’s Bait Shop near the north boat ramp.
“I’m very happy,” Watson said. “Very happy.”
Watson said he’s been selling live bait along the banks of the lake for 17 years. If the state park would have remained closed for an extended period of time, there might not be an 18th year.
“That might have been it,” Watson said. “I don’t know. If this place closed, who knows if it would ever re-open?”
Allen Harper, a retired angler visiting from Murray, Ky., with family in the Granite City and Belleville area, said he was aware of the state’s financial issues through relatives.
“I can’t believe Illinois would let things come to that,” Harper said. “But I’m glad to see someone stepped up and paid the bill. It’s wonderful that we’ve got some good people who think of others and do things like that.”